SHANE: Welcome to the Investing Advantage Podcast. Today I’ve got a very special guest, Todd Heitner. He’s the founder of Apartment Investor Pro, which specializes in multifamily websites for investors, in both of the U.S. and, because I’m Canadian, he’s going to be helping me out as well.
I actually met Todd through a mutual connection and a gentleman I have a very high level of respect for. He’s been on the podcast in the past, Adam Gower. Adam is helping the who’s who in raising Capital. So when Adam brought in Todd to teach and educate people in this intimate small group, I thought, ”I got to meet Todd.” So I went direct. And I feel very privileged to have him on the show. He’s got more than 15 years of experience building websites, helping people raise capital. I thought we could start with, how did you get into building websites? What was it that drew you to that?
TODD: Initially, when the internet was new, I was curious about it and wanted to figure out how web pages work. I found it interesting and so when I was in high school I was trying to take apart websites to figure out how they worked. Initially it was a hobby. But then I got into it and started making a living from that. And then I got into real estate investing websites, specifically. I started out doing websites for single-family investors. I worked with a coach, somebody who was teaching people how to do that. I did websites for their students and from there branched, expanded into multifamily. I saw there was a need there. There’s such a need for investors to have a website for credibility, but it’s such a pain sometimes to build it from scratch. Starting out with nothing and trying to figure out how to put it all together. That’s why I put together a service that made that a lot easier.
SHANE: I don’t talk about this very often but I probably had four or five different websites that I’ve tried to build on various platforms. The amount of time that went into it, let alone the cost. The cost is one thing, but the time to figure it out, and get the hosting, and plug it all together. I sincerely wish that I would have known about you about five years ago when I went down this route. And that’s really why I wanted to engage with you because the clients that I’m working with, I can see they have a website that’s not very good or they don’t have a website at all.
And I think in today’s environment people are going to Google you. They’re going to want to know who is Todd, who is Shane? And right or wrong they’re going to judge a book by its cover. So if you have a crappy looking website, we’re going to talk about this later on, but what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see from people who are trying to be serious re: getting into the world of multifamily real estate? What mistakes do you see them making?
TODD: Sometimes not having a website. If people Google you and there’s nothing there, what does that say about you? Because every business has a website. So if you’re saying you’re this business and you’re trying to raise money from people and there’s no website to back it up, it undermines your credibility. It makes you look like you’re not legit. That can scare people off. As opposed to if you do have a website, it shows a certain amount of stability. You’ve invested something in your business. You’re not planning to disappear tomorrow but you put something into it. Or sometimes a do-it-yourself website can look like a do-it-yourself website, which also undermines your credibility because people can tell. It just doesn’t look right. That also looks like, ‘If you’re this successful company that’s raising all this money to buy deals, why can’t you afford to have a decent-looking website? Or why did you build it yourself?’ It doesn’t quite line up.
Another thing is a simple small thing, but using a free email account like Gmail, Yahoo, whatever. Trying to communicate with people using that. It just doesn’t look professional. They can be disposable. If you were going to try to scam somebody out of money, you would use a Gmail or Yahoo account because it’s not connected to you. You can get rid of it. Whereas if it’s at your company name it’s a different feel to it.
Kind of connected to that is having a poor online reputation. Like you said, people are going to Google you. So you should Google yourself and see what comes up. It could be your social media accounts or something else. What impression is that going to give? Not that you want to hide who you are, or pretend you’re something you’re not. But look at that stuff through the eyes of a potential investor and think what impression would I get? How comfortable would I be giving this person my money based on what I’m seeing here?
SHANE: This morning at about 9 a.m. I had a phone call from a gentleman that’s invested with me. This lady that he introduced me to that’s invested. And we’ve never met in person but we’ve had some conversations on the phone. Robbie, is his name. He said, “We just went to your Instagram account and I showed her the video that you put out this morning.” To your point, one of the things that I’m hypersensitive about is congruence. That’s why I’ve always been an advocate for not pretending to be someone you’re not. I don’t wear a suit because I don’t wear a suit. This is what I wear. A polo shirt or whatever. But that’s your OPN. Your Own Personal Narrative. Your branding. What is it that you stand for?
This story that I was kind of sharing with you just before we hit record, about the gentleman that was trying to raise just over four million dollars. He comes to me with 30 days to go, and I did the same thing. I Googled him. It was a social connection so I put in the time and energy, but the challenge was it took me 15 minutes to find his website. I had to go to his LinkedIn profile and then I had to read through it. He mentions [his website] off hand. I go to it and I can see why he wasn’t promoting it because it was horrible. So when I sent it to some of the people that I thought might be interested, one of the people looked at the logo and they said, ‘If you want to know why I’m not investing, let’s have a phone call.’ And essentially he said if someone isn’t going to take the time to do a professional logo -I mean it looks like a sixth grader did it 15 years ago- He was pretty blunt; But let’s face it, if you’re asking for a million dollars or half a million dollars from someone, they are going to be critical. They’re going to look at you through a different lens. My thought is, I think investors are looking at you almost to [find] an excuse not to invest.
The websites that you’ve created, and the price point, I mean, I suspect it’s because you have scale. Because if someone came to you and said can you build me a custom site like what you’ve developed and just do it one off, that would be like a 15-$20,000 website. Because it’s just so freaking good. But maybe you can just talk a little about the iterations and how far it’s come from start to where you’re at today with the type of sites you’re creating for people.
TODD: Initially it was a little more basic. As we’ve learned more about apartment syndication, we’ve gone to a lot of events, listened to podcasts. Everybody on our team, we make sure they all understand what multi-family syndication is to really help our customers and make sure we’re meeting their needs. We need to understand the business. So as that’s developed we have realized ‘this is what they need.’ For example, having something free you can give away that investors can sign up for. And the wording and the layout. Seeing what is the standard. What do people expect to see when they go to the website.
SHANE: The structure.
TODD: The structure, yeah. And what kind of content’s there. Seeing what are the successful syndicators in this business doing? What do their websites do? What features do they have? Trying to incorporate that into all of our customers’ sites.
SHANE: So what would be an example of that? Because I’ve seen them. But someone who’s maybe never done that before. I’m thinking of a few individuals I’m coaching right now. And I’ve told them about you, and I’ll be sharing the links with them afterward.
I’m trying to think of the best way to put this. I had a call with one of my coaches, maybe this will put it into perspective. And I’ve seen Pitch decks for 12-15 years because I’ve been raising money for maybe, say 12 years. And I’ve seen this gentleman’s pitch decks. He’s at the top of the top in terms of doing this. Orin is his name. He pointed out in our last call, ‘This is why these colors are used and this is why these fonts are used.’ I’d seen the pitch deck 15 times but until he put a spotlight on what I should be focusing on and why, I had no idea.
And then I went back to all the decks I’ve created and thought, these are horrible! I need to redo them! But I’m glad that I got that perspective, if you will. So you don’t have to give all the secrets, but maybe one or two that you’re like “ost people wouldn’t even know to do this and this is why it’s so important.”
TODD: Yeah. One little thing, somebody asked me to look at their website. They built their own. And I looked through it. And the first impression is just something doesn’t feel professional about this. So to really pick it apart I realized the fonts aren’t the same size throughout. Or it’s not the same font throughout. And it’s just a little thing, but it just adds to the impression you get over all.
Also a call to action, where you direct people’s attention. A lot of times you use a different color than you’re using throughout the rest of the site to draw attention to a certain thing that you really want people to see first. Because if you have too many things competing for attention, you don’t know where to look. For example, if you have a free report on your site, you want to have the button for that stand out. A different color than everything else, maybe different from your overall color scheme to really catch your attention. That way you don’t miss it. Just a couple little things.
SHANE: One of the things that I picked up when I was going through that training with Adam and yourself was the importance of follow-up. If you think about the journey of a person that is going to invest with you, they’ve got to develop the “Know, Like and Trust”. So the website gives the ability to know about you. Hopefully you can put some personal stuff. And that’s where Adam and I really resonate. On the importance of personalizing it. Not using all stock images. That’s great to start, but put some of your own in there. I’m okay with the fact that I’ve got my brother and I doing handstands on my website, because that’s kind of how I am. I try to have fun and it’s okay if not everybody resonates with that. You just have to be who you are, essentially. The last part is the trust. Trust is built over time. That’s through stories and through email follow-up. Maybe just talk a little bit about the importance of that. And what you see some of the really successful people doing.
TODD: That is important. We talked about having something free people can sign up for. That’s just the start of the relationship. They’ve signed up for something, but at that point they may not know who you are. They certainly don’t trust you. Through emails and the follow-up process, you can really build a relationship with people. To a certain extent, certain parts of that can be automated. Certain things you’re going to want everybody to hear: Information about you, and your company, why they can trust you. Having emails that go out that build that trust. Even newsletter typing emails, and like you said, sharing something personal is good.
People are going to ultimately invest with somebody that they like. And if they don’t know anything about you personally, and you’re just a corporation, you’re too cold, I guess you could say, people may not feel as comfortable. That’s perfectly fine to share some personality too. You do want to build that relationship with people and there’s tools that can really make it a lot easier. Like email follow-up systems. You can program a series of emails that go out and that way everybody is getting the same consistent experience. On day one after they sign up, they get this message that tells about your company, or talk some more about investing in multifamily, why it’s a solid investment. Have this series that builds their trust.
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SHANE: You take people on a journey. Some of the people I’m studying under right now, it’s email marketing. There are so many facets to online marketing. And branding and positioning yourself. But at the end of the day the way I’m starting to think about it is, people start over here and if they’re going over here there’s milestones. I’m just thinking about a gentleman that recently started working with me and in a matter of 4 days, he went from never seeing me to listening to about 20 podcasts. Consumed my book, and some content that I had created. Obviously got my emails, to your point. He got the automated emails, he responded. And then I responded to him personally. It wasn’t a generic thing. And we had a conversation back and forth and he continued to consume, and by the time he got on the phone, actually it was a Zoom call, and he started working with me in 4 days.
And that is the power, in my opinion, of developing and online presence, but then content that supports who it is that you are.
Maybe touch on that, some of the important content that a person should consider as it relates to positioning themselves.
TODD: Of course your homepage should have information about investing in multifamily, what you do, a little about your company. One of the things that we can’t premake for somebody isn’t About Us page. That is really something that’s unique to you and your company because, even for our own website, our About As page is one of the most visited pages. People want to see who it is that they’re dealing with. That’s something really important to have there because it’s all about the relationship. We want to know who we’re working with.
Having the content out there like blog posts for example, or podcasts, or other content. On our sites, most of our plans have a few pre-made blog posts so that you’re not starting out from scratch. You might put together this really great blog post but it’s the only one and it looks like you’re just getting started. Whereas if you have a few…
SHANE: It’s less intimidating. And I always find it easier to edit than it is to start fresh.
TODD: Exactly. Yeah, that’s the thing, people can edit what’s already there. And it’s easier than starting from a blank slate. The same thing with a lead magnet and follow-up emails, all of those things are important to have in place. It’s all part of your content and like you said, if you didn’t have all that stuff in place, with that person you were just talking about, if you didn’t have all those episodes and blog posts, that process would have been a whole lot slower.
SHANE: And I think that’s important, in the sense that it doesn’t happen overnight. And that’s a good thing, in my opinion. Because it’s taken me two years of real dedication. Actually longer than that, but 2 years of focused effort of creating content and delivering value. The reason I say it’s important is the reason barrier-to-entry increases. Guys like Joe Fairless, Whitney, Adam, the real pioneers. They’ve been creating so much content for 5 years, doing daily podcasts, they create a moat that is very difficult to compete with. I just said, look I’m in it for the long game. I don’t need to try to do exactly what it is that these individuals are doing. But I think this is going to be episode 110 or something and I remember when I started off at episode 0. You really do need to play the long game. It’s okay if right now it’s a little bit skinny, but I can continue to build it over time. And just know that once you have it, everybody else just getting going has the same hurdles to overcome. I don’t know if that’s something that you’ve witnessed with people that are really successful. Because I know you work with the who’s who in terms of capital raisers.
TODD: That’s true. Similar to what you were saying, I talked to somebody that has a podcast and he said by the time somebody comes to him, interested in investing… and they’ve already heard his podcast or other things, it’s a done deal. They’re ready to go. There’s no convincing them. As opposed to somebody that randomly found them on the Internet that doesn’t know who he is. It’s completely different scenarios. Because your podcast or your blog post, you’re sharing your expertise. You’re becoming an authority on multifamily investing.
Think about the base of the word Authority – it’s author. By authoring content, you’re becoming an authority on the topic. We tend to trust people that are producing content. People that know what they’re talking about, know this business. We all want to work with somebody that knows what they’re doing. By putting that content out there, you’re showing that you do know what you’re doing. You’re separating yourself from those that are not producing that content. I think it’s really important.
SHANE: Absolutely. Even beyond just raising capital, if someone is new to investing and they want to be taken seriously and they contact a broker, or a lawyer or a mortgage, those individuals are going to Google you just the same. If it looks like you fixed and flipped a single-family home twice and now you’re trying to buy a 10 million-dollar apartment building…
I just wrote about this today. Brokers are looking for deal certainty. No different than an individual that’s going to invest with you. If they don’t get that feel in the first couple minutes from your website, it’s pretty unlikely. I know Sellers, and I know Brokers are Googling me every time I make an offer. Every single time! I have to be careful about what I talked about, and not sharing too much. I have to be respectful. But at the same time, I know that they are watching. You can’t hide anymore. Ten – 15 years ago it was a very different story. You could submit an offer and no one really knew who you were unless you were an Insider. Nowadays they’re going to do their homework on you.
TODD: Yes it’s easy to do that research now. I’ve had people say, one of our customers hadn’t done their first deal yet and they were talking to the seller’s agent and they asked about what experience do you have? So they just directed them to the website. When they saw the website and saw it was professional, they dropped it. They didn’t pursue that anymore. It really can make a difference – your appearance. Your professional appearance and credibility.
SHANE: Todd, that is so big. Whoever that was, that is a really smart strategy. And the fact that the website could do the speaking, because it’s like show not tell. ‘Look if you want to see my experience just go to my website.’ Let that do all the heavy lifting versus trying to convince someone. The value of that, if that was what separates this individual from getting the deal and not getting the deal, that’s like 6, 7 figures. The difference between getting in the game and staying on the sidelines. That’s huge! I’m happy you shared that. And that’s why I wanted to reinforce it.
Because if someone just hears that without understanding the implications of how valuable that is, I hope that you start to think about the cost of inaction. The cost of not having a website. What is that true cost? I’m not here to… I’m only reinforcing this because I’ve seen the value in my own progression. That’s why I really wanted to have Todd on here. Todd, maybe just to tie everything together and be respectful of your time, what would be next steps for someone that is interested? Obviously I want you to talk about the services that you offer because I have not come across anyone else who does it at the same level that you do.
TODD: One of the first steps, before you do anything, no matter what route you’re going, is to get a domain name. Your name dotCom. Before you get too attached to a certain business name, make sure the domain name is available. The dotcom because that’s part of your brand. You don’t want to register your LLC and then find out somebody else already has that name and is using that domain name. That’s going to create confusion. You don’t want to have to change it later. Get that first. Lock that in. I do recommend going with a company you’ve heard of for getting your domain name, like GoDaddy or Namecheap even Google domains. You might find it a little bit cheaper somewhere else, but you might also have trouble down the road trying to use your domain, so I recommend sticking with some of the bigger companies.
From there it kind of depends on what route you’re going to go. If you’re using our service, we include web hosting and pre-made designs. The content is ready to go. It’s a good idea to personalize that, put your own flavor in that and your personality. But it gives you a great starting point. We have designed it to try to make it where, from day one you can use it as is. You’re just putting your business name in it. And it’s ready to go. Of course, when you have time you can personalize it.
If you’re not using our service then there’s a few things you need to think about. Like getting web hosting. I don’t recommend going with the cheapest thing out there because web hosting is like renting an apartment. You don’t want to just go with the cheapest thing out there because you’re going to have problems. Down the road you’re going to have neighbors that create issues, for example. Go with something that has a good reputation and it’s going to be used by other people that are running serious businesses.
SHANE: When I heard you and Adam talk about this, I kind of understand it, but the domain is like the street address, if I’m not mistaken. Maybe just tell that analogy so someone understands the importance of web hosting. Because it is still valuable.
TODD: Sure. The domain is like your address where people can find you. The web hosting is sort of like the land that you’re built on, essentially. Every website is hosted somewhere. You have to have somewhere to build your website. The location is important because when it comes to web hosting if you choose really cheap hosting they’re going to cram a bunch of sites in there because they know that these people are not very serious about their business. They just want the cheapest way to get a site up and running. Most will not even be using it. Some will be using it for shady things. You don’t really want to be grouped in with them. That’s why I don’t recommend going the cheapest route because that’s where you’re going to be. In a bad neighborhood. All of that can affect your website. You’re essentially all in the same computer. So if they’re doing stuff, it could actually slow down your website or get it blocked from other services. You don’t want to be lumped in with that. And you want it to be fast too. You want it to run smoothly and be fast. People aren’t going to wait around for a slow website. Some of the cheaper services are going to tend to be slower. You also may have trouble getting good support too.
Then you have to build the actual website. I recommend WordPress as a platform. There’s other stuff out there, but WordPress is one of the most popular. The reason I like it is because it’s so flexible. There’s stuff out there so whatever you want to do somebody has already made a plug-in or a tool to do it with WordPress. So you don’t have to do it all from scratch. WordPress is like the framework or the platform to build it from. If we’re using the analogy of a house, the structure of it essentially. And then from there you’ve got the design, the content. Like we talked about earlier, even the little things do matter. You don’t want to go the cheapest possible route and hire anybody. Your cousin who learned how to build a website in school because all those little things matter. It’s not about just getting a website up, but getting one that’s going to work for you.
SHANE: Absolutely. It’s all the little things. The title tags, SEO. Once you start going down that rabbit hole, and I want to stay out of it because I’m going to get out of my domain of what I understand, but I do know enough that it all matters. These small, little nuances, like having different fonts, different sizes, different title tags, whatever it is that throws it off, a person isn’t going to necessarily know what it is but it’s not going to feel right. If it doesn’t feel right, and then that investor bounces, what is that costing you? In my opinion it’s significant.
I think if anybody is sincere about getting a professional website to either raise capital or position themselves as a commercial real estate or multi-family investor, definitely check out Todd’s services at Apartment Investor Pro. I’ll have a link for guests that they can go to get a special discount. It is an affiliate link. He’s been very gracious and given my listeners and people that work with me a discount.
TODD: Our website is ApartmentInvestorPro.com You can sign up for a demo to see what it is that we’re offering and what the websites look like.
SHANE: I will say this. Once I came across Todd services and I looked at the website that he’s created, and then I started to Google all my buddies in the podcasting world that are raising Capital, I’m like there’s one. There’s one. There’s one. Pretty soon you realize, okay if you’re a player in this market you pretty much have Apartment Investor Pro as the back end. I’m not saying that just to pump your tires, that’s the truth. That’s what I’ve come to realize. I sincerely wish I would have come across you a little while ago but the next website that I’m building (which I’ll share with the audience when it’s right) will be built on this. I’m looking forward to it. Todd, really appreciate you coming on.
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